18th Mar 2018

Pride, confusion and sour grapes after EU wins Nobel

  • Nobel awards gala: who will go to pick up the prize? (Photo: EUobserver)

EU officials weary of being sniped at for their handling of the crisis or their big salaries got a morale boost on Friday (12 October) when the five people on the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Norway gave the world's most prestigious award to "the European Union."

Committee secretary Geir Lundestad told press in Oslo the EU got it for its "accumulated record over more than six decades ... it was about time."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He listed five achievements: Franco-German reconciliation after World War II; support for new democracies in Greece, Portugal and Spain in the 1980s; support for former Communist states in the 1990s; modernisation of Turkey; and peacebuilding in the Western Balkans.

Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland added that the timing of the award is linked to the euro gloom.

"We should focus again on the fundamental aims of the organisation ... If the euro fails, then the danger is that many other things will disintegrate as well, like the internal market and free borders. Then you will get nationalistic policies again. So it may set in motion a process which most Europeans would dislike," he said.

EU parliament President Martin Schulz was the quickest to react - 33 minutes after the news broke.

"It is a great honour ... We in the European Parliament are deeply touched," he said.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy said in a joint statement shortly after "the European Union [is] an inspiration for leaders and citizens all over the world."

Van Rompuy in separate press remarks also called the EU "the biggest peacemaking institution ever created in world history."

Barroso spokesman Olivier Bailly fired off a series of tweets on how many people EU money has helped to save from Aids or hunger.

EU leaders, foreign ministers, prominent MEPs and former VIPs sent out similar messages.

Germany's Angela Merkel said the prize is "a spur ... We must work tirelessly and continue to strive for peace, democracy and freedom."

Octogenerian former chancellor Helmut Kohl said: "I am proud and I wish for God's blessing for us on our further path to a united Europe." His French counterpart, Jacques Delors, said: "I am very emotional."

Meanwhile, inside EU institutions in Brussels some meetings broke off as directors dug out bottles of champagne.

But amid the celebrations, there is some confusion on who the prize is really for and who will go to Oslo on 10 December to pick it up.

Barroso, Schulz and Van Rompuy paid heed to the fact peace in Europe is a much bigger story than just that of EU institution-building set in train by people such as Robert Schuman or Jean Monnet. They said the prize is "for all EU citizens ... for the project." Merkel said it is for the EU as an "idea."

Despite the sentiments, EU personalities quickly began to jostle for the limelight.

Barroso posed for a photo opportunity getting flowers from the Norwegian ambassador to the EU and Schulz' communique ended with a pitch for him to be on stage when the gong is handed out. "On behalf of the European Parliament, we, together with the other EU institutions, look forward to receiving the Nobel peace prize in Oslo," he said.

For her part, Polish centre-right MEP Lena Kolarska-Bobinska said the prize should be received by civil society leaders. Home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it should be picked up by 27 children, one from each EU country.

Malmstrom also noted the prize usually goes to individuals who put their lives at risk to help others rather than to powerful institutions.

The other finalists this year were Belarusian and Russian dissidents, a Mexican bishop who stood up to drug lords, an Afghan women's rights campaigner and an Egyptian slum charity worker, some of whom are in jail.

"My first thoughts: most welcome, unexpected, important. Unexpected, naturally, as there are so many across the globe fighting for peace and democracy, who also deserve this prize - dissidents and organisations fighting an uphill battle," the Swedish commissioner said in her blog.

The Nobel committee's Lundestad also noted that "some people will find the award controversial," not least Norwegians, where "support for the EU is at an all time low."

The line up of detractors was dominated by professional eurosceptics.

Irish anti-EU campaigner Declan Ganley tweeted the prize money should be given to "failing bank bondholders" because that is where EU bailout cash "ends up ... anyway." Dutch MP Geert Wilders said: "At a time Brussels and all of Europe is collapsing in misery. What next? An Oscar for Van Rompuy?"

Spanish-born MEP Marta Andreasen said: "The EU and it's [austerity] policies are directly responsible for widespread public disorder and rioting in Greece and Spain."

British centre-right MEP Martin Callanan said "The Nobel Peace Prize was [already] devalued when it was given to newly-elected [US President] Barack Obama [in 2009]."

Obama at the time had just taken up office. In his post-Nobel-win years, he kept up hawkish US practices, such as using drones to kill "terrorists" in Pakistan or Yemen.

Several people, including former British foreign minister Malcolm Rifkind, said Nato has done more to keep the peace than the Union. Others noted that while the EU spends billions on aid, its trade policies support predatory multinational firms, such as oil and mining companies in Africa.

But some EU critics greeted the news with surprising good cheer.

Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss, better known for exposing how industry lobbyists distort EU legislation, said: "The Union has helped cement peace in Europe ... We now look to Europe's leaders to play a truly transformative role on the environmental stage."

Human Rights Watch EU chief Lotte Leicht, better known for attacks on EU relations with dictators, said: "This prize is a recognition of the EU's contribution to democracy and human rights."

"At the same time ... its voice must be heard loud and clear around the world exposing rights abusers and raising the price for human rights crimes, even when the abuser is financially and politically powerful," she added.

The original text said Decland Ganley had tweeted that EU bailout money goes to investment bankers. In fact, he said it goes to "failing bank bondholders"

Ashton declines MEP's appeal on Nobel gala

EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton has brushed aside calls by a leading MEP for her to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on Friday in defiance of Chinese diplomacy.

EU proposed for 2004 Nobel Peace Prize

Thorbjørn Jagland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and now chairman of the Norwegian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee wants to hand the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize to the EU for its unification of Eastern and Western Europe.


A new narrative for Europe

Few could dispute the Nobel committee’s assessment the EU has helped turn a continent of war into a continent of peace, but many have questioned its timing.

Six EU leaders to skip Nobel gala

Six EU leaders, including the UK, are to skip the Nobel gala next month, as criticism of the award multiplies.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden emerges as possible US-North Korean summit host
  2. Google accused of paying academics backing its policies
  3. New interior minister: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'
  4. Hamburg 'dieselgate' driver wins case to get new VW car
  5. Slovak deputy PM asked to form new government
  6. US, Germany, France condemn 'assault on UK sovereignty'
  7. MEPs accept Amsterdam as seat for EU medicines agency
  8. Auditors: EU farm 'simplification' made subsidies more complex

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Latest News

  1. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  2. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  3. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  4. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant
  5. Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks
  6. Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case
  7. Western allies back UK amid Russian media blitz
  8. Meet the European Parliament's twittersphere

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementEuropean Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementSuing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  12. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström